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Washington Post Corrects Year-Old Article Calling Lab-Leak Theory ‘Debunked’

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The Washington Post Company building in Washington, D.C. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

The Washington Post has corrected a year-old article which dismissed the lab-leak theory of COVID’s source as “debunked.” The piece attacked Republican Senator Tom Cotton’s claim that the virus may have originated in the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China.

The original article called Cotton’s hypothesis “debunked” and a “conspiracy theory.” The original headline from February 2020, “Tom Cotton keeps repeating a coronavirus conspiracy theory that was already debunked,” was modified Tuesday to read, “Tom Cotton keeps repeating a coronavirus fringe theory that scientists have disputed.”

The new popularity of the lab-leak explanation in the mainstream likely accounts for the publication’s sudden retraction. No longer deemed far-fetched and implausible, the possibility that the virus escaped from the Wuhan lab is now being actively probed by the United States and other international actors, such as British intelligence.

The Washington Post editors added a note altering readers to the correction.

“Earlier versions of this story and its headline inaccurately characterized comments by Senator Tom Cotton regarding the origins of the coronavirus. The term ‘debunked’ and The Post’s use of ‘conspiracy theory’ have been removed because, then as now, there was no determination about the origins of the virus,” the editor’s note read.

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